Among the many tests that have recently been thrown at us, one of the simplest to describe is also one of the most challenging to implement.
The directive to ‘work from home if at all possible’.
Many organisations will have responded to this eagerly at first, sent staff home, setting them up for remote working, only to realise that they are unclear how to proceed from there.
Most of these companies will now be working in some form – probably in an ad hoc fashion but not necessarily driving the business in the right direction. Much of this will be inefficient – although somehow managing to get somewhere.
Having already had considerable experience in remote working, at Splento we felt we can help – by drawing on that experience and sharing the knowledge we have acquired over the last few years.
We hope you find it useful.
Who are we – and why do we advocate remote working?
If you don’t already know us, Splento is a tech startup based in London. We have co-workers spread around the globe, and have always had at least half of our team working remotely from day one.
It’s vital for a startup to be flexible and quick to adapt, and being a distributed environment really helped us react fast as different countries went into various states of lockdown at different times. It was a relatively quick task to shift to complete remote working for all our co-workers and we managed to take up our new working strategy in just one day.
For you, it may take longer, but it is worth the effort; for some, you may even choose to make this a permanent shift.
So, what are the core concepts of remote working? Here’s our top 5.
1. We overcommunicate
The key principle over all else is to keep in touch. Communicate, communicate and then communicate more.
Daily and weekly calls keep everyone engaged and energised. Make them video calls as much as you can. Encourage calls between co-workers as well, when possible, rather than (or in addition to) messaging. Team chats and one-to-one.
Splento CEO, Roman, has started writing a daily blog for all our stakeholders (team, investors, clients), which is published across half a dozen different platforms, so that it can be accessed in the reader’s preferred format. Our monthly all-hands meetings are now weekly.
Have group and individual message chats using whichever app suits you best, Telegram, Slack, etc. Don’t just stick to work talk – have a separate group chat for recommendations, tips, books, links that colleagues may find helpful. Communicate as you would if you were working physically together.
Encourage online socialising – organise (or get your workers to) joint online activities, fun meets, take lunch ‘together’ and share personal news.
We recently had a team-member ‘desk photo’ flashmob (online). It really helped create a sense of connection, of team spirit. It provided insight into our co-workers lives and working now, it helps to picture them in their environment – to feel that bit closer and connected.
When remote working, with co-workers feeling isolated, you cannot overdo communication.
2. We use Cloud connectivity and have everything in one place
As we have always said – the world is moving online.
Using cloud tech, we always have everything in one place – which means data is always accessible to everyone.
Everything is in the cloud, making it available and transparent. Everything is recorded and there for examination and checking. With current online collaboration tools, there’s no danger of data being lost, overwritten or duplicated.
We document all critical decisions so that everyone is always on the same page.
Tip: There are many cloud-based tools available, many with good features; we like Google Docs and Airtable for keeping everything in one place, Figma & Canva for design, ClickUp and Jira for task management.
3. We observe team rituals
There isn’t much that can’t be done remotely – we smoothly run daily stand-ups, sprint planning meetings, retrospectives, weekly meetings and one-on-ones.
The first time for a co-worker in a remote meeting can be a little disconcerting, but you’ll be surprised how quickly they adapt.
Every Friday, we share #fridayreflections and achievements where we make time for both personal and work achievements.
We reflect on our successes and what we have learned. We take time to celebrate each other’s achievements. We look back at what we set out to accomplish and what we actually did.
It’s also a time to share anything you have personally found useful which may help out a co-worker in the coming days and weeks, be it a website, app or daily routine.
4. We have effective meetings
Just as with face to face, remote meetings are not a free-for-all; they have a clear structure, an agenda and a defined goal.
Don’t hold formal meetings that are unnecessary. They must have a distinct purpose and a definable outcome, so that the attendees don’t feel that you are wasting their time and adding to their existing list of distractions.
Remote meetings require more planning than conventional ones. Keep numbers small as control of a large group online is challenging. So plan who attends with a clear idea of what they will contribute (skills, experience, ideas etc). Don’t invite anyone who isn’t necessary.
Have clear rules, ie. on muting the mic if you are not speaking, just one person taking notes, on a ‘virtual whiteboard’ if required, that everyone can see. Record the meeting and share after. No browsing the internet or eating – focus!
Schedule the meeting considering calendars, workloads and time zones. Plan ahead and give everyone notice of the date/time. Forward the agenda with the invite, along with the technical info required to attend. Attendees then have time to prepare, plan their contribution and be time efficient. This avoids problems of an unprepared person hogging the meeting.
Contributions should be short and to the point. Ask for group feedback before moving on. It will help to keep the meeting structured.
Follow up on the meeting by emailing a recap of the main points discussed, and any actions and responsibilities clearly noted.
5. We set boundaries
One of the fears voiced about remote working is that of ‘always being available’ – people worry that they will feel as if they are never away from work once it is taken into the home.
Setting clear boundaries is essential. Even though our teams are spread across different time zones, the focus is on personal space. Every co-worker has times when they work and when they don’t, but we all have work hours that overlap with one another – usually around 5-6 hours per day.
A daily routine with reasonably set times is a must for almost everyone – with boundaries for start and finish hours and breaks. Each evening, plan your work for the next day. Starting work with a clear list of goals makes handling distractions much easier.
Lead by example – if managers and team leaders are not doing this, then why should all your other co-workers?
So is it worth it?
Remote working works – it may take a little more structure and planning, but it can also provide an energy and dynamic that is sometimes missing in an office environment. It gives co-workers more personal responsibility.
Be there to support any of the ones who may struggle to start with. And who knows? When this is over, you just might decide not to go back to your old ways!
Splento is in the business of helping business at this challenging time.
Get your free visual support – visit www.splento.com/wearetogether today.
To follow Roman’s daily blog – www.splento.com/blog/letters-from-ceo/march-2020-update/